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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, March 24, 2019 1:00 am

Help us change the trajectory

Editor's note: The following is a letter written by Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Deborah McMahan and other local health and law enforcement officials to area lawmakers and city and county leaders:

According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of deaths from alcohol, drugs and suicide in 2017 hit the highest level since federal data collection started in 1999. Unfortunately, this has also impacted our life expectancy in the U.S. – for the first time since World War I and the great pandemic, we have seen two consecutive years with lowered life expectancy for all Americans. This decrease is unique to the United States.

The Allen County Department of Health has been partnering with the Fort Wayne Medical Education Program and the Allen County Coroner's office for the past several years to analyze the overdose deaths in our community. Sadly, we have experienced the same dramatic increase in 2017 in Allen County as was seen in the United States. In fact, both deaths by suicide and accidental drug overdose increased by 40 percent in 2017. We are currently analyzing data from 2018 and will provide that data to you when completed. ...

Depression, anxiety and addiction are all treatable medical issues, and we are very fortunate our local medical, mental health, judiciary and philanthropic partners are collaborating to increase our capacity to prevent, diagnose and treat mental illness and addiction. Area research scientists and physicians are engaged in important research in the fields of mental illness and addiction as well. However, we continue to experience a significant shortage of resources to provide the level and type of evidence-based services that are required to effectively treat these conditions.

As the magnitude of this problem is large and the social and economic impact significant, in the context of your professional and charitable allocation of resources, we ask you to consider apportioning assets in such a way that it will ensure that the people on the front lines have access to the funds they need to change the trajectory of this issue. We are happy to discuss this issue further with you and your colleagues. For more information regarding mental illness and addiction, please visit Lookup Indiana at lookupindiana.org/.

DR. DEBORAH A. McMAHAN

Health Commissioner

Allen County

Department of Health

JANA SANDERS

Director of Informatics

Allen County

Department of Health

DR. GREG EIGNER

Associate Program Director

Fort Wayne

Medical Education Program

BRIAN HENRIKSEN

Director of Research

and Scholarly Activity

Fort Wayne

Medical Education Program

CAPT. KEVIN HUNTER

Fort Wayne Police Department